Theses Doctoral

Peace and Security beyond Military Power: The League of Nations and the Polish-Lithuanian Dispute (1920-1923)

Tessaris, Chiara

Based on the case study of the mediation of the Polish-Lithuanian dispute from 1920 to 1923, this dissertation explores the League of Nations' emergence as an agency of modern territorial and ethnic conflict resolution. It argues that in many respects, this organization departed from prewar traditional diplomacy to establish a new, broader concept of security. At first the league tried simply to contain the Polish-Lithuanian conflict by appointing a Military Commission to assist these nations in fixing a final border. But the occupation of Vilna by Polish troops in October 1920 exacerbated Polish-Lithuanian relations, turning the initial border dispute into an ideological conflict over the ethnically mixed region of Vilna, claimed by the Poles on ethnic grounds while the Lithuanians considered it the historical capital of the modern Lithuanian state. The occupation spurred the league to greater involvement via administration of a plebiscite to decide the fate of the disputed territories. When this strategy failed, Geneva resorted to negotiating the so-called Hymans Plan, which aimed to create a Lithuanian federal state and establish political and economic cooperation between Poland and Lithuania. This analysis of the league's mediation of this dispute walks the reader through the league's organization of the first international peacekeeping operation, its handling of the challenges of open diplomacy, and its efforts to fulfill its ambitious mandate not just to prevent war but also to uproot its socioeconomic and ethnic causes. The Hymans Plan reflected this ambition as well as commitment to reconciling the tenets of balance of power and territorial status quo with the principle of self-determination and minorities' protection when drawing new boundaries and creating new states.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Mazower, Mark
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 13, 2014